Every June, we select two talented students from the Nebraska High School Theater Academy to represent the Cornhusker state at the Broadway League’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards, otherwise known as the Jimmy Awards, in the Big Apple.
This year’s national nominees took on New York City with Nebraska pride! Piper Monson of Lourdes Central Catholic and Drew Sinnard of Kearney High School auditioned alongside over 50 of their NHSTA peers for the opportunity to learn from Broadway pros and attend the spectacular Jimmy Awards ceremony.
Upon their homecoming to Nebraska, I caught up with Drew and Piper to hear about their big city experiences and find out what comes next for these outstanding performers. Read their Q&A answers below!
Q: What do you love about performing?
Drew: I love everything about performing. Especially butterflies right before you go on stage. It will never go away, and the nervous energy helps me focus and hone in on my stage presence and what I need to do.
Piper: I myself have been impacted by many performances, so to have the opportunity to give that gift of touching someone else’s life is the most rewarding experience.
Q: What drove you to audition for nationals?
Drew: Our teacher got us involved with NHSTA three years ago, and knowing about the opportunity to perform at The Jimmys, I was definitely looking forward to even having the chance to audition for The Jimmys. And then I made it. Woah.
Piper: I remember my freshman year in high school, my school was new to the program, and I was so amazed by these kids who had that opportunity to go to New York. I started dreaming about the day when I would be able to audition, so that I too could have a chance at the life-changing experience.
Q: How did your experience with NHSTA prepare you for the Jimmy Awards?
Drew: The rehearsal process during NHSTA Showcase week is intense and requires a close maintenance on your vocal and physical health. That helped me the most through the Jimmy’s, because that prepared me for the next step which was NYC.
Piper: Throughout the years with NSHTA, whether it be in master classes, special performances, or Showcase week, we’ve always been exposed to a professional and fast-paced working environment. Those years of being treated as a professional with industry professionals really made the shift from Omaha to New York so easy.
Q: What was your first thought when you heard your name be announced as a national nominee for the Jimmy Awards?
Drew: Woah. What just happened? I was so honored and humbled to be chosen this year, and I wish that I could’ve taken everyone with me, they all deserved to experience and fulfill their dream.
Piper: I truly had no idea what to think. I had just heard Drew’s name called for the male nominee and I was so unbelievably happy for him I hadn’t had time to prepare myself! I just remember this wave of happiness washing over me when I came back to reality. Having my fellow finalists cheering right beside me made it feel like a dream.
Q: What are some highlights from your trip to NYC?
Drew: Getting to see my first Broadway show (which, by the way, was Dear Evan Hansen). It was incredible, and it made me fall in love with theater, NYC and Broadway even more than before.
Piper: It is so hard to narrow down the week because every second you were surprised by something! I think many of the nominees will agree with me in saying that seeing Dear Evan Hansen (especially after recording our “You Will Be Found” video with Andrew Barth Feldman and Alex Lacamoire!) was such a surreal and emotional experience. For me, it made me fall even deeper in love with theatre, which I didn’t think was possible!
We all knew coming into it that we would be making our Broadway debuts, but it didn’t hit me until we sang our first note and took that first step onto the Minskoff stage....it was an exhilarating and indescribable wave of emotions that eased your soul and made your heart race all at the same time.
Q: How was your experience at the Jimmy Awards? Tell us about that special time!
Drew: Having the amazing opportunity to work with Broadway professionals and with the most talented high school students in the nation was an honor, and a blast. And performing on Broadway at 18?! It was an absolute dream come true for Piper and I.
Piper: Being in a room with 85 talented individuals who share the same deep love for something you do is so refreshing. Working with so many artists who are all on the same wavelength as you made the work so fun. I learned more from my peers, my coach, our guest speakers, and our creative team in a week than I ever thought possible—lessons about the industry and life that will stick with me forever.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
Drew: I will be attending the University of Central Missouri to study for my BFA in Musical Theater Performance. I’m hoping some day to move back to NYC after college to find work and live my dream.
Piper: Next year I will be attending Nebraska Wesleyan University to pursue a BFA in Musical Theater! I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life doing what I love as a career!
Q: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned through NHSTA?
NHSTA national nominees Drew Sinnard and Piper Monson with Hannah-Kate Kinney, NHSTA student reporter and winner of the Jimmy Awards Student Reporter Search.
Drew: To be a humble, and kind person. When you’re around those kind of people, and you surround yourself with the right people, it’s the most valuable thing you can learn in whatever you do. Thank you NHSTA for helping nourish our art form, and providing us a space to express ourselves.
Piper: NHSTA has taught me so much. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you never stop learning. As artists we have to constantly be open to grow and learn so that our craft can have the greatest possible impact.